When you are dealing with symptoms, especially annoying and irritating ones, you may want to be cured. You want the symptoms, illness, or injury to go away. If you are cured of an infection, the infection is gone. If you are cured of insomnia, you no longer have trouble sleeping. We like cures because they remove a problem once and for all, or so we hope.
But to be cured of something is not the same thing as being healed, although the two are often equated. The word “heal” is derived from the Old English word “haelan” which means “to make whole.” Healing involves wholeness, or the movement towards wholeness.
The body is a servant of the soul and of the psyche. And, ironically, the psyche may sacrifice the body for the sake of wholeness. In other words, it may tolerate disease if it promotes transformation and growth of the personality. Just as a parent may sacrifice her life to protect her child, so the psyche may allow, even orchestrate, illness in the body if the illness can lead to psychological healing and the development of consciousness. Heretical as it may seem, illness is often the stepping stone to wholeness. A battle with cancer or heart disease, for example, might help an individual discover a wider and more vital perspective on life–a new sense of calling, purpose, and passion. In such cases, the body is used as a messenger and instrument of personal and spiritual growth. The same is often true of psychiatric illnesses. Depression and anxiety typically hold the keys to personal transformation when properly understood and worked with. They are not things to just be quickly eradicated. Rather, they are meant to be learned from and respected.
There is a hierarchy within the psyche, and the physical body is not at the apex. More important to the psyche than the body is the development of the soul and of consciousness.
Neither is the psyche particularly interested in the goals of the ego (conscious mind) for the goals of the ego do not always, or even usually, serve the development of the larger personality. The ego is typically short-sighted and basically self-centered (egocentric) in its perspective and pursuits. It frequently is not oriented towards wholeness or completion of the personality, but towards the perpetuation of its current status and standpoint.
This accounts for the general preference for cures over healing. Cures take away what our ego finds objectionable or troublesome. It relieves us of our “problem.” Healing, on the other hand, means helping the ego find its proper place within the psyche and the world. A cure appears to make the problem, symptoms, or illness go away, whereas healing helps you become more conscious and find the proper attitude and relationship to life itself. Healing leads to transformation of the personality, while a cure may actually delay such transformations by alleviating the very symptoms that would spur you to greater consciousness and maturity.
Unfortunately, most people don’t really want healing; they don’t seek wholeness. The path of healing and wholeness and the development of consciousness is often painful. Personal growth and self-knowledge may be freeing and expanding, but they also require effort, sacrifice, humility, and tears. In addition, many people believe that they are entitled to a life without pain, be it physical pain or emotional. They believe they should not be burdened with discomfort and that all such suffering, whether their own or that of someone else, should be alleviated with the greatest of haste. Such beliefs can interfere with healing and growth both in their own lives and the lives of those they are “helping.”
It is sometimes difficult to accept that pain and suffering have a purpose in the development of a mature and whole personality. And, conversely, pain and suffering are made more bearable when experienced within a life of meaning and purpose, a life oriented towards wholeness. Your pain weighs less heavily and nags less intensely when you loosen your focus on cures and instead live your life in the service of healing and wholeness.
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
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